What is ‘Nutritional Ketosis’ (Without the Gobbeldygook)

I’ve used the term ‘nutritional ketosis’ in a few posts but I haven’t taken the time to explain it – as if everyone’s a nutrition nerd like I am and knows what the heck I am talking about.

I could get all ‘sciency’ on you, but I’d rather not. Most people aren’t all that interested in the sciency details – and I would just be lifting from a book that has become a bit of a bible to me in my current approach to low carb:

The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living: An Expert Guide to Making the Life-Saving Benefits of Carbohydrate Restriction Sustainable and Enjoyable by
Stephen D. Phinney and Jeff S. Volek

I’ve read the book twice and it is well-highlighted in my Kindle. Recommended for all you nutrition nerds, but many of you aren’t nutrition nerds and don’t want to read a book written by two doctors written for other doctors. It isn’t a breezy read.

Instead, why don’t I give you the explanation I give myself – dope that I am. For goodness’ sake – check this out for yourself if you have even the slightest curiosity. I give no promises for accuracy. You have been warned.

As I understand it, you body burns ketones for fuel when deprived of carbs – and your body can run on them just fine – eventually. It takes time for your body to produce ketones at the proper levels at first, and for your organs to adapt to it.

This is the lousy feeling that typically occurs during the traditional 2 week Atkins Induction.

But as your body continues in ketosis, it gets better at producing ketones and your organs get better at using them. Some fussy organs run on glucose alone and these are created from protein by the body in the necessary amounts – which is why you need some protein. The crappy feelings come from your body, in the process of converting over to running on ketones, doing so inefficiently, and your organs adapting to the new fuel.

Just like with exercise, that first run after 20 years on the couch is awful, but the next one is a little better, and the one after that a little better still.

Your body begins to adapt to the new situation and you perform better.

Ketosis adaptation works the same as exercise adaptation. It follows the came conditioning process. And like exercise, it takes time.

It can take upwards of a month, or so I read, to become fully keto-adapted. And again, I do not believe that a single cheat impacts this all that much. It’s what you mostly do over the course of this month that matters – not a single day. Heck – I had wine and pasta and some carby chocolate cookies during this month and my ketones are high and I’m 12-13 pounds down.

The trick was that the cheats were contained. It wasn’t that much.

I have given up using the urine test strips for the time being and now use a blood monitor for ketones. As the test strips cost $1-2 each, I only do it weekly.

When I stated, that first week I had gotten to 0.5 mmol/l – this was at a point where the urine strips were a dark red. From what I’ve read, however, 0.5 is the ‘pee-wee league’ in ketosis – it’s not that much. You are supposed to be aiming for 2.0 to 5.0 as your body adapts and gets better at producing ketones.

What isn’t measured here is your body’s adaptation to using them. I can only assume that this is occurring.

The second week, I was up to 0.8, the third week I was down to 0.4 (that was the cheat week).

When I measured it yesterday, I was at 2.0, which I interpret as my body has become better adapted at producing ketones – which means it is mobilizing fat and burning it for fuel with greater efficiency.

The result, to me, is that I am less hungry and more and more, I forget to eat.

Nor have I completely eliminated carbs. Last week I ate a lot of my kale soup recipe. I skipped the sausages and just had the kale, onions and chicken broth and added salt and pepper. I would mix in a single serving of full-fat Greek yogurt and perhaps a dash (or 5) of Tabasco sauce.

They are a bit carby for a low carb diet, but because the rest of my diet has so much fat – and the carbs in kale are about the best quality carbs you can get in terms of nutrition – it doesn’t seem to matter.

And the extra benefit is that this kale is delicious. My kids eat it without my asking. This is a kid friendly kale recipe – I don’t think anyone has ever written that sentence before.

So the saga continues.

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